April 19, 2010

Gannett takes calculated risk on content strategy

A story in the New York Times this morning noted how Gannett’s newspapers in New Jersey have been carrying stories about the New Jersey Devils, written by an employee of the Devils.

It’s a new twist on a not-so-old development of sports organizations taking non-traditional avenues to enhance coverage of their properties. In an era where traditional media struggle to cover everything it once did, teams and leagues are smart to seek out new strategies to replace the publicity. For most, it means making the wise choice to rejuvenate their own Web content.

The Bengals are believed to have been the trendsetter when they hired Geoff Hobson -- then the Bengals’ beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer -- to work for the team’s Web site in April 2000.

Today, a plethora of leagues and teams have followed a similar path, including the Devils, who have employed Eric Marin as the team’s staff writer since 2007.

So, the Devils offering Marin's stories to newspapers may be a natural outgrowth of that trend. And perhaps we'll start to see more of it in the future as content created by team and league employees -- or by their affiliated Web sites, like MLB.com's staff of beat writers -- is viewed as mainstream.

For newspaper chains like Gannett's to get involved, however, involves a philosophical breach of the the church-state divide that newspapers have erected to protect their copy from outside influences. Publishing news created by the team being covered all but ignores that wall and may create additional credibility problems for newspapers, already struggling from enough of that on their own.

Hobson, who 10 years later is still working for the Bengals, said he was surprised to hear about Gannett's decision. “But in this economy, it’s a newspaper trying to make the best of a bad situation,” he said.

For the team, however, there is no conflict. It’s the best of a good situation.

“The Gannett papers cover a huge portion of our fan base,” said Robert Sommer, a spokesman for Devils Arena Entertainment. “For us this is great, because now our fans in those areas can follow us in their local papers.

Reporters and players wearing same colors {N.Y. Times}

L.A. Kings changing way hockey's covered, or controlling the news? {Yahoo! Sports}

No news is bad news {Sports Business Journal}

Why pro sports need newspapers {Blog Maverick}

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